How Hard Is It To Repeat as a TI Champion?

Here’s a good question — how hard is it to repeat as a TI champion?

The answer? It’s rather simple — it’s really hard to repeat as TI champion. Like, really hard. Like, so hard that no team has ever been able to do it in eight tries. But, then again, it should be hard, because, why wouldn’t it be? Winning a TI is already hard enough, but winning TI twice and back-to-back? That’s something that probably won’t be accomplished anytime soon.

Why? We don’t know, but we did come up with a couple of theoretical reasons, such as:

  • Winning a TI alone means that you’ll have to win at least four series’ and nearly two dozen matches at most under the highest pressure. Imagine doing that for a second straight year, under even heavier scrutiny and with even more pressure to win.
  • It’s easy to lose your hunger to win and get complacent when you’ve already won it all.
  • You’ll have a target on your back following your TI win, with every team preparing to beat you in every tournament that you play in.
  • There will be a lot of pressure on your team to win from Day 1, and every mistake will be magnified, which can cause chemistry problems and issues that could possibly lead to a roster change or two.

Which Team Has Come the Closest to Repeating as a TI Champion?

TI Champion

Natus Vincere are the only TI champion to have ever had a chance to defend their title. (Dota 2 / Valve)

Here’s the reality — repeating as a TI champion is really hard.

For example, only the first TI champions, Natus Vincere, made it back to the Grand Finals the following year to defend their title, where they lost to Invictus Gaming 3-1. This marked as the first and only time that the last year’s champions were there to pass on the Aegis of Champions to the new winners.

In the years that followed, no team has come close.

Evil Geniuses came the closest when they finished third at The International 2016, and that was probably a fluke considering how often they switched players that year. In fact, Team Liquid are one of the few TI champions to have retained their roster. Even though they spent the inaugural Dota Pro Circuit as one of the top teams, they couldn’t repeat and instead settled for a respectable fourth-place finish at The International 2018.

The current reigning champions, OG, are feeling the effects of the so-called TI curse. They have yet to qualify for a Major this season. They haven’t even come close to winning a tournament. Not to mention, OG have already lost one of their star players. Anathan ‘ana‘ Pham is currently out on a break, and his replacement, Pers Anders Olsson ‘Pajkatt‘ Lille, has already left the team, which forced OG to play with yet a new carry in the middle of the season.

Whether or not it’s the pressure of being a TI champion that forced them to make some changes — or pushed ana to take a break — is not yet unknown, but OG’s lack of success only serves as proof of how hard it is to repeat.

Why Do TI Champions Fail to Repeat?

TI Champion

Arguably the most skilled of all TI champions, Team Liquid failed to repeat as the pressure to win with the targets on their back all-year round finally got to them. (Team Liquid)

Looking at the record of the past 8 champions, we can see that  we can see that only half of them retained their roster following their championship run to varying success.

Invictus Gaming, who won the International 2012, only won two tournaments following their TI win and finished in the Top 6 at The International 2013. Meanwhile, Alliance, who won The International 2013, actually were quite successful, winning 4 tournaments and making a number of deep runs with the same roster. However, they would not be as successful at The International 2014, where they infamously bombed out of the group stages and finished in the Top 12 (of 16 teams).

The other two TI winners to retain their rosters are Newbee and Team Liquid. The former had a lot of success in the first few months following their win at The International 2014, but they would slack off in the latter half of the season and eventually finished in last place at The International 2015.

Finally, the most recent TI champion to retain their roster, Team Liquid, were the most successful of them all, as they placed outside of the Top 4 in the 13 tournaments they played in just twice and ended up winning a total of 4 Minors, as well as 1 Major, before taking fourth place at the most recent The International.

What Does This All Mean for OG?

TI Champion

It’s not over yet for OG, but things definitely aren’t looking up for their chances of becoming the first to win TI twice and back-to-back. (Dota 2 / Valve)

Already, OG are feeling the brunt of the criticism, with so many already calling their TI win a fluke. Admittedly, their current performance hasn’t helped them any one bit. But, of course, OG are no strangers to going back-to-back, as prior to Virtus.Pro winning multiple Majors under the new Dota Pro Circuit, OG were the only teams to have won multiple Majors, winning a total of 4 (out of 5) and going back-to-back with wins at the Boston Major and the Kiev Major.

Not to mention, OG were just as least favoured to win a TI last year as they are right now, and we all know how all of that turned out.

This isn’t to say that OG should be able to repeat as TI champions, however. Going back-to-back remains an impossible endeavor and it might be years before we see another team do so successfully.

Of course, OG are welcome to try, and between the amount of collective talent, experience, and skill on the roster, they are well positioned to try and beat the odds.

How long do you think will we have to wait before we see our first repeat TI champion? Do you think OG can do it this year? Why do you think it’s hard to go back-to-back? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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